Anime Monday - Monogatari

I'll admit I was considering skipping Anime Monday this week. Christmas is right around the corner, and I've got a lot of other things in the works for this blog. I didn't want to overload myself too much with work (as writing these posts do take a huge chunk out of my limited free time), but when I saw what my RNG wanted me to talk about this week I just had to do so. Sure I could've saved it for next week, or even the week after, but I don't want to wait on this one. I'm also not sure if I can describe this series and do it justice, but I'll try my best. Although can this series really be put into words? Uh, I guess... Monogatari?

(Yes, this is a reference to THAT.)
Basically translated to "story," Monogatari is a series of Japanese light novels that have been slowly releasing throughout the last decade and a half. Since their release the series has become pretty popular in both Japan and the West, and because of that it didn't take long for an anime adaptation to surface. The thing is though, Monogatari has a pretty unique writing style to say the least. The way the author conveys the story isn't done in your usual fashion, so translating it from writing to visual isn't quite that simple. Or heck, translating it from Japanese to English for that matter! Thankfully both have been done very well! Of course adjustments had to be made for both the English release of the novels and the anime version, but the way both handle it ended up working out for the better. Both are faithful to the original Japanese release, and can be enjoyed completely on their own. In other words this is not a series where you'll be missing out on large chunks of information if you only stick to the anime release, nor did the English release go changing things like you will often see. (Still annoys me when names are changed). That being said, today we are only going to be focusing on the anime itself. While my RNG actually told me to talk about Nekomonogatari Black, I can't start there. If I'm going to do this right, we're going all the way back to the "beginning."

The Monogatari of Bakemonogatari:

The story of this series follows a high school student by the name of Koyomi Araragi (not Arararagi), and begins in a strange way. Right off the bat the "different" art style is front and center, and we see a young girl falling from the stop of a stairway. Of course like any good anime protagonist would, Araragi catches her, and saves her life. Although something is a bit off.

Shortly after we see Araragi having a discussion with the class president Tsubasa Hanekawa. At this point things are a bit hard to follow, and it feels almost as if we are seeing a story unfold that's already been in progress -- a fact that is confirmed as the series goes on. From the start it's clear that Araragi respects Hanekawa, and can always come to her whenever he needs help with something. In this case he wants to know more about the mysterious girl he had saved previously -- one he already knows as being named Hitagi Senjogahara. Up until this point Araragi has never even spoken to her, nor did he know much about her, but after the incident the other day he realizes for the first time something is wrong. While it's common knowledge among the students that Senjogahara is sickly, no one exactly knows what is wrong with her. She doesn't participate in physical activities like gym class, and she's often going to see doctors for her "condition." Of course this is pretty much all Hanekawa knows about her as well, but Araragi decides to ask for her opinion anyway. The thing is, Senjogahara isn't exactly "sick."

After saying goodbye to Hanekawa Araragi is stopped by Senjogahara in the hall, and instantly held at... Staple... point? She shoves a stapler inside his mouth and holds him hostage. When Araragi caught her he learned her secret. The truth is, she has no weight -- or rather, she weighs less than a new born baby. This is a problem she has been dealing with for quite some time now, and she doesn't want ANYONE to know about it. By stuffing her clothes with office supplies she's able to somewhat hide this fact, but the moment she slipped on a banana peel and fell down the steps, all her hard work hiding it was for nothing. Araragi caught her, and now he knew. Sure Araragi promises to keep her secret, well, a secret, but just as a bit of insurance she still decides to staple the inside of his mouth. A warning shot if you will. This causes great pain for Araragi, but after a few moments it heals. You see, this isn't the first time Araragi has come across something strange, as he himself used to be a vampire.

Encounters with Apparitions:

Each chapter of Monogatari tends to focus on a different mystery or strange event occurring in the main character's home town. In a future story we see how Araragi himself came face to face with not only a vampire, but the strange Oshino as well. Oshino is an expert in the unknown, and is someone who helped both Araragi and Hanekawa when they needed him most. With Senjogahara also being inflected with some sort of supernatural sickness, she too eventually comes face to face with him and is freed form her curse. This is how her and Araragi initially get to know each other, and what sets them both out on their adventures yet to come. They are not the only ones however, as each story introduces new characters into the mix, as well as new apparitions for them to deal with.

While the first series of Bakemonogatari focuses more on Araragi meeting the "main" cast, and understanding exactly where they come from, future entries are a mix of both sequels and prequels. Both Nekomonogtari Black and Nekomonogatari White focus on Hanekawa for example, with one story showing how she first met Araragi, while the second focuses on a much more recent event taking place after the original season. Then you have parts of Nisemonogatari that focuses more on side characters, rather than the initial main cast. This sorta brings these characters into the main plot, and expands on Araragi as well. At some point we eventually see the events that lead up to everything, thus making the original season a lot more understandable, but even these stories are quite a lot different than the rest of the series. In short there's a lot going on, with the timeline jumping allover the place, but one thing almost always remains the same -- it's Araragi and his fight against the apparitions of the town.

As I previously just mentioned, nearly every character in the series has come across some sort of apparition, and most apparitions have some sort of theme going for them. For example the little girl who encountered the "snail" has a large back pack on her back making her look like one herself. Senjogahara encountered a "crab" and she likes to use staplers as her weapons of choice. It's an interesting concept, and despite knowing their "names," what these apparitions are isn't exactly clear until the end. Sometimes it can be a big hard to follow, but eventually the pieces fall into place and the complete story reveals itself. It just takes a little while to get there.

From Writing to Animation:

One of the unique things about Monogatari is it's animation and style. Like I mentioned before, things had to be changed to make this series work as an anime, and the way they handled this is pretty unique. Rather than being a flat out adaptation, the anime gets pretty creative with not only it's camera work, but also with what they can add to the story by using visuals. For example, whenever we are seeing from Araragi's point of view, we also physically see his blinking. Sometimes these "blinks" are black (as they are for us in real life), but we also have red as well. Then there are other colors used throughout the series which give us a hint to how he is feeling at the moment, but even this isn't quite as simple as it sounds. Then you have the text that likes to flash and fly by on screen too fast for you to read them. These are usually the main character's current thoughts on the situation, and are basically what you would read in the original novel. Of course in real life we often think faster than we can write or speak, so the animators reflect this by having Araragi's thoughts vanish almost as they appear. Sure you can pause the video and take the time to read everything, but in all honestly you're not meant to. It's something there to challenge your speed reading abilities, and whatever you miss you miss. Then we have the visuals themselves.

Monogatari likes to show a lot of "trippy" imagery. Staplers flying through the sky stapling the air, thousands of bicycles appearing around the characters as they talk, close zoom ins on character's eye's or mouths with insane detail, full scenes being animated using only a few colors, etc. It's not something that can be completely described in writing, as writing only uses words. What the anime version of Monogatari does can only be done in animation form, and is unlike anything else. Some of the more violent scenes in the series tend to use white backgrounds and light colors to make the main characters and action stick out, while the characters themselves will have faces that twist and distort as they feel physical pain. Whenever something bloody happens, this is when the color pallet will usually turn to red, while blood and gore will splatter the originally white background in a sea of colors. There are some scenes that can get quite graphic, but overall it's more stylish than anything else.... Well... Yeah, usually it is.

Besides the stylish art, the series also contains a lot of references. Character movements and poses are often references to other popular anime series, or sometimes you'll flat out see something in the background. It's pretty cool to see, but unless you've watched a lot of popular series it's also very easy to miss.

The Soundtrack:

The visuals aren't the only stand out aspect of the anime series, as the soundtrack is also top notch. Nearly every single song found in the series, including it's many openings and endings, are just flat out amazing. They relate directly to what is happening in the story, and can make you feel nostalgic in an instant. Sadly this is something I can't really describe with words either, so I recommend checking the OST out for yourself. Especially the first ending song for Bakemonogatari.

Should You Watch It:

YES!!!!! Or not. The thing is, this series is NOT for everyone. First of all, it is confusing. The story starts somewhere in the middle, and it takes awhile before you really understand what is going on. In fact you can actually watch multiple seasons of this show before it really "clicks" for you. It doesn't help that there is a LOT of dialogue, as some episodes are nothing but talking with nothing but strange imagery to break it up. This alone might turn some people off, but that's not the only thing. Yes there are some sketchy moments throughout the series, and then there is the famous "tooth brush" scene with Araragi and his sister. It's pretty disturbing to say the least. The show is filled with shock imagery, and often does so to trick you into thinking Araragi is something he's not. Some of the scenes with the snail girl also go too far, and might stop people from watching any further.

As for those who stick it out though, the series is filled with a lot of interesting ideas and stories, and is worth watching. The animation is top notch, the music is great, and it really is unlike anything else out there. It's just a unique series, and the more you start to realize about the overall plot, the better it becomes. In some ways it may be better to watch this as you read the original novels as well, but a rewatch of the series might help you just as much. Once you understand more of the plot, the series itself changes. It's something worth seeing for yourself, if you aren't turned off by the initial episodes. So yes, it's worth watching, but again not everyone will like this.

Where to Watch:

The series can be watched in quite a few places, but the easiest would be Crunchyroll (as at the time of this writing it's set to expire on Hulu). However watching it in order is the tricky part So here's a quick list to help you get started on Crunchyroll:

Nekomonogatari Black
Monogatari Second Season and Hanamonogatari
Owarimonogatari (Season 1 and Season 2)

And sadly that's all Crunchyroll has to offer. We're missing Kizu, Koyomi, Zoku, but that's more than enough to get anyone started. Have fun!

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